Family, School, Peers and Risk Factors For Adolescent Alcohol Abuse

According to research published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, the lack of attachment to family and school and having peers that use alcohol are all risk factors for adolescent alcohol abuse.

The research was conducted by Kimberly L. Henry and Eugene R. Oetting of Colorado State University and Michael D. Slater of the Ohio State University. The study was published in 2009.

The findings are based on a two year longitudinal study of 1,064 middle school and junior high school students.

Unlike previous studies that examined the role of family, school, and peers in alcohol use among teenagers, the longitudinal nature of this study allowed for Henry and her colleagues to assess not only the differences between different students, but also changes that took place within individual students as time progressed.

Adolescent students that reported agreeing with statements such as “My family cares about what I do” and “I care about my family” were less likely to abuse alcohol than students who did not agree.

Likewise, those who reported agreeing with statements such as “School is fun”, “I like my teachers” and “My teachers like me” were less likely to abuse alcohol than those who disagreed.

Although lack of attachment to family and school were both risk factors for alcohol abuse, the strongest predictor of adolescent alcohol abuse was involvement with friends who used alcohol.

“The study showed that this short time in junior high school is a period of important change for some individual adolescents. Within students, there were significant changes in family and school attachment and significant changes in association with alcohol-using peers. These within-person changes were accompanied by within-person changes in alcohol use.”


Henry, K.L., Oetting, E.R. & Slater, M.D. (2009). The role of attachment to family, school, and peers in adolescents’ use of alcohol: a longitudinal study of within-person and between-persons effects. Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 56, No 4: 564-572.